BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Monday that the government will soon forward a draft law on applying administrative decentralization in Lebanon to Parliament. Mikati spoke at the opening of the French-Lebanese Second Conference for Cooperation on Decentralization at the Grand Serail.
He called on municipalities to cooperate to the best of their ability in order to benefit from French expertise.
“Municipalities constitute the building block of administrative decentralization. They should be expanded and advanced in order to reflect real partnership between the citizen and the state,” he said.
Administrative decentralization seeks to redistribute authority, responsibility and financial resources for providing public services among different levels of government.
“I am happy about this conference because it highlights the relationship between Lebanon and France, and covers the issue of administrative decentralization,” Mikati said.
The prime minister added that Lebanon is committed to strengthening its relations with France and boosting levels of cooperation.
“When I met French President Francois Hollande in New York last week, I told him that it is our duty to develop relations between the two countries,” he said.
Mikati added that his government remained committed to putting a draft law before Parliament on administrative decentralization.
“We are now about to deliver on our promise by forwarding the draft law to Parliament,” he said, adding that such a law was recommended by the 1989 Taif agreement that brought an end to 15 years of civil war in Lebanon.
French Deputy Minister for Development Pascal Canfin said France’s support for development efforts in Lebanon does not simply stem from the friendship between the two nations, but also highlights France’s backing for the Lebanese government’s efforts to preserve stability in the country.
Canfin, who serves under the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said France would welcome Lebanese ministers to visit Paris in a bid to enhance ministerial cooperation.
“We are here today to highlight the importance of cooperation between Lebanese and French municipalities, which are currently engaged in several joint projects,” he said.
French Senator Michel Delebarre said that administrative decentralization boosts the efficiency of public service.
“We are convinced that public service becomes more efficient when government agencies are closer to the citizen. We can achieve different forms of decentralization while guaranteeing that local bodies stay tied to the central government,” he said.
Beirut Mayor Bilal Hamad said holding such a conference proves that the Lebanese government is seriously interested in applying administrative decentralization in order to facilitate its relationships with its own agencies.
Hamad added that various other countries have applied decentralization, and this has proved successful.
French government agencies are already involved in several projects in Lebanon. Among these is one project dedicated to developing cultural tourism in the northern city of Tripoli.
Other projects involve developing a network of historic cities in Lebanon (Tripoli, Sidon, Tyre, Byblos, Beirut, and Baalbek), and training Lebanese municipalities on how to deliver public services of better quality and with greater efficiency.